Study exposes social media sites that delete photographs’ metadata

Facebook and Twitter consistently remove the metadata from images, a new study by the International Press Telecommunications Council has revealed. Google+, meanwhile, comes out on top

Olivier Laurent — 13 March 2013

defendcopyright1

The International Press Telecommunications Council has released a new study into the use of images by social media websites, finding that some of the most predominant ones, such as Facebook, Twitter and even Flickr, remove photographers’ metadata from images they host.

The IPTC represents some of the world’s major news agencies, news publishers and news industry vendors.

“A social networking site is only as good as the information its members choose to share,” says Michael Steidl, IPTC’s managing director, in a statement. “If users provide rights data and descriptions within their images, these data shouldn’t be removed without their knowledge.”

The IPTC has tested 15 social media websites, looking at how image sharing, through upload and download, affects the integrity of embedded metadata as defined by the IPTC standards and the Exif standards.

The results show that Facebook and Flickr are some of the worst offenders, with most of the metadata removed from the original files uploaded. Twitter has also been found to remove Exif and IPTC metadata from its files.

Google+, however, passed all of IPTC’s tests with flying colours, retaining all types of metadata even when the pictures are embedded or downloaded from the social media site.

“Professional photographers work hard to get specific information like captions, copyright and contact information embedded into their image files, therefore it’s often a shock when they learn that the social media system they chose has removed the information without any warning to them,” says said David Riecks of ControlledVocabulary.com, a member of the IPTC test team.

The study’s results can be found on the IPTC website.